Based on Atheros Communications XSpan draft 802.11n technology, Belkins N1 Wireless Router (priced at $150) and N1 Wireless Notebook Card (priced at $120) are easily the most attractive of the gear eWEEK Labs evaluated here.
At the front of the glossy, black N1 Wireless Router is a series of glowing blue LED indicators that provide a clear and understandable view of the routers connection status. The display indicates when wired and wireless clients are present, if wireless security is enabled, and whether the router can communicate with the Internet.
The N1 Wireless Router also has three antennas, although their range of motion is limited when compared with the Buffalo Technology and Linksys units, making it a little more difficult to optimize performance through minute adjustments.
Unlike Broadcom-based devices, the N1 Wireless Router does not offer automatic channel allocation, nor does the device let users choose whether to assign the 20MHz channel in the upper or lower positions. Instead, the narrow channel is allocated on the same channel as the wide channel.
Fortunately, the N1 Wireless Router displayed none of the irregular backward-compatibility issues with 802.11g client adapters that we experienced with other products.
The N1 Wireless Router was also the only product we reviewed here that shipped with protected mode enabled by default. Protected mode is preferred to maintain higher speed when lots of legacy 802.11b traffic is nearby, but our test location was largely free of ambient wireless transmissions.
Therefore, we disabled protected mode after we determined performance improved significantly without it.
Unlike routers from Netgear and Buffalo, the N1 Wireless Router supports the enterprise flavors of WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2, enabling businesses or advanced users to tie in with a RADIUS server for the strongest wireless security alternatives.
For more information, check out www.belkin.com.
Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.